#cvg2015: It’s Convergence time again!


We’re in a bit of a tizzy around here — Convergence starts on Thursday, and since we have a Freethoughtblogs party room at the event, Mary and I are actually heading out to Bloomington tomorrow, to start putting it all together. It’s a big job — we have to spill-proof a hotel room, move in lots of special furniture (like a bar!), put up flyers, register, decorate, etc., etc., etc. And then during the con, I’m doing 8 panels/demos (I have sensibly cut down from previous years, when I’ve done as many as 15, which was exhausting).

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No more compliments, thank you very much


I’m not happy with this kind of speculation.

If South’d won Civil War? Slaves would’ve soon been freed anyway, South would now be banana republic, & North the greatest civilisation ever

And it was intended as a compliment?

No, such a thought never entered my head. My tweet was intended as a compliment to all that is best in America.

No, it isn’t. It’s an ahistorical mess.

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Hovind Uncaged™


The goofy ol’ creationist is being released from prison next week, on 8 July. He’s on home confinement for a month, so he won’t be jetting about spewing nonsense to the world at large for a little longer, and then he’s on probation for five more years, during which he has to ask the court’s permission to travel out of state. I can’t imagine any judge being so spiteful as to deny him travel (what would be the purpose), so expect fresh bullshit from a gleeful lecture tour later this summer.

Come on up Minnesota way, Kent! We need your tried and true gobbledygook to laugh at!

What does the chair of the Diversity Committee at the Royal Society have to say about Tim Hunt?

Her words ought to have some weight, I think, and they represent a rational response to the issue.

His remarks at first seemed to me just a drop in the bucket of millions of similar ones made every day about women in the workplace, often by decent men who would be horrified to be regarded as misogynists. For me they confirmed an age old stereotype of women as trouble, so old that it goes back to Adam and Eve. But they were the drop that finally caused the bucket to flow over. They became a catalyst for a deep-seated bitterness to pour out of people, not only women, who simply felt that enough was enough. This was an outpouring waiting to happen. It needed just that little drop.

What is the bitterness about? Injustice, plain and simple. And it coincides with my own anxieties as chair of the Diversity committee. The bitterness is sustained by the strong feeling that women have not had a fair chance to succeed in science. This is a serious problem in science in general, but it is also a problem for the Royal Society. It is a fact that only 105 out of 1569 Fellows are women (6.7%). It is a fact that only 22 out of 106 of the awards and medals given by the Society over the last 5 years were given to women and that over those five years only 22% of the successful candidates on the Royal Society’s University Research Fellows and Sir Henry Dale Fellows were women.

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Planned obsolescence for science, even?


The publisher at AAAS/Science wrote something truly remarkable about how he sees his job.

In an era with more access given to less qualified people (laypeople and an increasingly unqualified blogging corps presenting themselves as experts or journalists), not to mention to text-miners and others scouring the literature for connections, the obligation to better manage these materials seems to be growing. We can no longer depend on the scarcity of print or the difficulties of distance or barriers of professional expertise to narrow access down to experts with a true need.

Ah, the good old days, when hoi polloi were excluded, when journals were locked away in dusty library stacks and only the initiates in science were aware of their existence, and when we knew that only an elite few actually needed access to knowledge.

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Why do we deify or despise the unfamiliar?


I’m in the curious position of having met a great many Nobel laureates. I’ve had dinner with some, gone drinking with others, had long conversations with a few. I’ve gone to the Lindau meetings twice, where Nobelists are everywhere. Furthermore, I’ve known brilliant people who have done phenomenal work of Nobel quality who would never be awarded one because the Nobels only cover a very small, limited number of subjects.

And I realized that I’ve known more Nobel prize winners, and with greater familiarity, than I’ve known plumbers. I’ve probably known only 3 or 4 plumbers, and not well at all: they come to my house, they do a job, and they leave, and we don’t go out for drinks afterwards. So my knowledge base for plumbers is a little weak, but I can do a comparison anyway. Here’s what I’ve learned.

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